Up until a few years ago, one of the hallmarks of the coming Christmas season was the live Rosemary "trees", potted, shaped and decorated like a Christmas tree. It was the most wonderful scent. Of course, when your kids are young, you tend to be more frugal. For years it was something that I never purchased, but would always stop to admire and inhale while doing my shopping. As hectic as those years were, that first year with no kids at home was rough, and that year, I decided to indulge myself with one of those little "trees". In the following years, I have been unable to find those plants during the holidays. But for that one year, I had the most up-lifting aroma in my home, when I needed it most.
Rosmarinus officinalis is a perennial woody shrub with evergreen, needle-like leaves. The oil is extracted by steam distillation. Rosemary essential oil is unique in that it is one of the few oils that has multiple chemotypes. This means that the essential oils vary in composition, yet are from the same species. Different geographical locations are often associated with different chemotypes. Rosemary oil from Spain, known as CT1, has elevated camphor levels, whereas rosemary from Tunisia, CT2, is higher in 1,8 -cineole. CT3 is Rosemary from France, with elevated verbenone. (1) Rosemarinus officinalis ch a- pinene has higher levels of a-pinene., which allows for the fresh pine scent to come across.
In the granite hills country of Australia's Central Victoria, Chris Burder, owner of StoneRise Farm, grows the 'Herb Cottage' variety of Rosemary. Described by Debaggio Herbs as “sparkles with tightly spaced foliage that produces a good clear scent," and by Larkman Nurseries as having blooms of soft blue flowers from mid-winter to early spring. (2)(3)(4)
Chemotypes offer much confusion for those of us trying to learn the chemical make-up of plants. In researching, I found one report that stated that it was based on whether the shoots are old or young. In another, I read that "some constituents of essential oils are independent of any single bioclimatic factors.” (5)(6) The later statement appears to be most accurate, as I took these theories to both Chris and Mark Webb for clarification.
During conversations, Chris told me that the best time to harvest is when the flowers are on, and Mark followed up by saying that "no one harvests with very young leaves on, you always wait for them to harden off first, as the oil content increases as they age." Different sources specify either leaves or flowers being harvested. Chris disputed this as well. "Young, old, leaf, wood, flower, it makes no difference - the only difference is the amount of oil obtained from various plant parts, 99.9% of it comes from the leaves, the rest mainly the wood, negligible from flowers. Have a look at the photos in the natures gift post... You'll see all of that. Look closely at the mulched pile and you'll see chips of wood along with leaves and flowers."
Robert Tisserand reports having kept Rosemary at his desk while researching for Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition, citing research showing that Rosemary essential oil can boost memory by 75% (7) As well it has shown to effect cognition and mood. (8) Marge shared with me that she learned in Robert Tisserand's skin care course that rosemary essential oil is useful in skin care for acne, as it is antibacterial. However I did note in Essential Oil Safety that Robert Tisserand recommends a max dermal limit of 22%, based on camphor contents of up to 20.7%. (9)
Research from India indicates that among other things, Rosemary essential oil raises blood pressure, sooths stomach upset and freshens breath. Ongoing research in India focuses on the possibility of the essential oil preventing neurodegenerative diseases, affecting breast cancer, and cutaneous wound healing. Obviously this research is not conclusive at this time, having only been studied in vitro and lab rats, but still scientific research to monitor. (10)
I will continue my search for a little tree come holidays, but next month during Mark's Advanced Diploma Course in Atlanta, I have a feeling a lot of people will have this oil in their pocket!
(1) E.J.Bowles, 3rd Edition, The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils, Allen&Unwin, 2003
(5) Lakušić DV1, Ristić MS, Slavkovska VN, Sinžar-Sekulić JB, Lakušić BS., Environment-related variations of the composition of the essential oils of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) in the Balkan Penninsula. Copyright © 2012 Verlag Helvetica Chimica Acta AG, Zürich. http://www.researchgate.net/publication/229065470_Environment-related_variations_of_the_composition_of_the_essential_oils_of_rosemary_(Rosmarinus_officinalis_L.)_in_the_Balkan_Penninsula
(6) Lakusic, Ristić, Slavkovska, 1/23/13, Institute of Botany and Botanical Institute of Botany and Botanical Garden "Jevremovac", Faculty of Biology, University of Belgrade, Takovska 43, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia.
http://www.researchgate.net/publication/235893091Seasonal_variations_in_the_composition_of_the_essential_oils_of_rosemary_ (Rosmarinus_officinalis_Lamiaceae) Seasonal variations in the composition of the essential oils of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis, Lamiaceae).
(9) Robert Tisserand/Rodney Young. Second Edition, Essential Oil Safety: Churchill Livingstone, 2013
(10) http://www.food.actapol.net/pub/6_1_2013.pdf AN IN-DEPTH REVIEW ON THE MEDICINAL FLORA ROSMARINUS OFFICINALIS (LAMIACEAE) Asia Begum/ Sandhya, Shaff, Ravindran, Reddy, Banji, Department of Pharmacognosy, Nalanda College of Pharmacy
Cherlapally, Hyderabad Main Road, Nalgonda-508001, India 2Department of Pharmacology, Vatsalya College of Pharmacy
Bhongir, Nalgonda, India